Kadamba Memories

Now, it seems that it was ages back. Many, many summers ago. When I was a school-going kid, then in the sixth standard and we were asked to learn ‘by-heart’ Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s Yeh Kadamb ka Ped. If we failed to recite the next day, either we had to stand on our desks or told to go ‘class se bahar.’ We generally agreed to do the former because we didn’t want our parents to know.
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Like many others I had never seen a Kadamba tree but the poem about the wishes of a child to climb a tree on the river bank and play on a tiny wooden flute to surprise his mother remained with me all these years and on seeing a Kadamba tree today in full bloom, those memories of my school days came rushing. Of our Hindi teacher—the bespectacled, her long hair tied in a bun—Supriya madam dressed as always in a salwar kameej; Solil with whom I shared the desk and the view from the window—our huge playground which had played host to Palestine chief, Yasser Arafat.
The rains may play truant but Kadamba flowers are unlikely to desert you. In full bloom, the apricot-coloured spiny balls hanging from the branches of the Kadamba (Kaim, Mitragyna Parvifolia), standing on the roadsides, wait for the passersby to adore their beauty. They begin as yellow-green flowers spreading its scents, similar to jasmine, during nights and grow into oblong fruits containing seeds, as many as 8,000! The deep and thick fragrance of Kadamba flower at rainy night fills the surroundings with a mystique atmosphere. Only those who have experienced its aroma can feel it. On maturing, the fruit splits apart, releasing the seeds, which are then dispersed by wind or rain.
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The globular fruits, from which the white clubbed stigmas project is compared to the cheek of a maiden mantling with pleasure at the approach of her lover, and are supposed to have the power to irresistibly attracting lovers to one another. Expressed beautifully in the couplet of the Saptasatika: “Sweetheart, how I’m bewitched by the Kadamba blossoms, all the other flowers together have not such a power. Verily Kama wields now-a-days a bow armed with the honey balls of the Kadamba.”
Mathematician-astronomer Aryabhatt had propounded the view that earth was round just as the bulb of a Kadamb flower is surrounded by blossoms on all sides, so also is the globe of the Earth surrounded by all creatures whether living on land or in water.
In Sanskrit it is called Kadamba or Kalamba, and has also many synonyms, such as Sisupala (protector of children); Hali-priya (dear to agriculturists) etc.
Kadamb flower marks an annual miracle in Bangladesh: borsha, the monsoon season, stretching through the months of Ashar and Shrabon. In Bangladesh it is said “Don’t offer Kadam/Kadambo flower to your lover lest it creates mistrust between you’’. If you visit Dhaka during the rains you’re likely to come young boys selling Kadamba flowers on the streets.
Thane has scores of Kadamba tree and these are the ones I come across during my morning walks in July. You too may have seen them in your neighbourhood. If not, keep looking.
Kadam ful-13
Here is the poem for those have not heard of it:
Yeh kadamb ka ped agar ma hota yamuna teere
Mai bhi us per baith kanhiya banta dhere dhere

Le deti tum mujhe basuri do paiso wali
Kisi tarah nichi ho jati yah kadamb ki dali

Tumhe nahi kuch kahata mai chupke-chpuke aata
Vahi baith phir bade maje se mai basuri bajata

Amma amma kah bansi ke swar me tumhe bulata
Bahut bolane per bhi ma jab nahi utar kar aata

Ma, tab ma ka hriday(dil) tumhara bahut vikal ho jata
Tum aachal faila kar amma vahi ped ke niche

Ishwar se kuch vinnti karti baithi aakhe meeche
Tumhe dhyan mai lagi dekh mai dheere dheere aata

Aur tumhare faile aachal ke neeche chup jaata
Tum ghabara kar aakh kholti, per ma khush ho jaati

Jab apne munna raja ko godi mai hi pati
Issi tarah kuch khela karte hum tum dheere- dheere
Yah kadamb ka ped agar ma hota yamuna teere.

The image of the boys on a Kadamba tree is courtesy http://weloveourbangladesh.blogspot.in/

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